Barentsburg / by Shaun O'Boyle

My laptop charger failed on arrival to Svalbard, so there has been a delay to my posts. It took a week and a half to get a replacement shipped from Oslo but I'm finally up and running again. I'll be working my way through the trip backwards, starting with todays boat trip to Barentsburg, an active Russian coal mining settlement about 50 kilometers from Longyearbyen where we are staying. It's the second visit I made to Barentsburg, my first was last week in combination with a boat trip to the Esmark Glacier across the fjord. Barentsberg isn't what would come to mind when thinking of the Arctic, it's an authentic coal mining town, raw, rough, gritty, grimy; in a word - beautiful. It's one of the northern most coal mines in the world at only 800 miles from the North Pole. It a small piece of the Soviet Union, something of a time capsule of soviet life in a far north archipelago, probably similar to settlements in Siberia. I've learned a bit about coal mining since being here. The coal seam is less than 1 meter thick, so that is the space miners have to work in when extracting the coal. That means working laying on their stomach or back all day, picking and shoveling the coal. Some images:

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